The Pontiac came back from the shop yesterday afternoon. It looks as good as it did the day I bought it, twenty-four years ago last weekend.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, I bought this 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari station wagon from Hertz Car Sales of Traverse City, Michigan, in January 1989. My father had a business there and bought cars from them for his sales staff, and when this one came on the lot after being in the rental fleet, he told me about it. I was living in Colorado at the time, so I flew in from Denver on a Friday, picked it up that afternoon, and drove back to Colorado. I’ve had it ever since. It’s gone over 250,000 miles, from Colorado back to Michigan for six years, New Mexico for another six, and now Florida since 2001. It’s had its usual repairs and problems that come with being a daily driver, but it’s held up remarkably well, and when I joined the antique car club here in Miami, I told them that I had a car that would someday become an antique.
That happened on January 1 when the 1988 models became officially designated as antique — twenty-five years old — by the national Antique Automobile Club of America rules.
The car was built by GM of Canada at their plant in Oshawa, Ontario. It was destined for the U.S. market — the speedometer is in miles, not kilometers — but in homage to its native land, I got a 1988 Ontario license plate to give it a touch of authenticity.
It’s a seven-passenger car, as noted by the “wayback” rear-facing back seat, which I am sure brings back a lot of memories for the boomers who spent many hours riding to vacation or school or soccer practice while trying not to provoke a stern warning from the driver: “I will stop this car right now if you don’t knock it off back there!” This was in the era before iPods, so the sound choices were AM/FM or cassette, so everyone listened to Loverboy or nothing at all.
This was also the era before Smartphones, so if you wanted a cell phone in the car, you got a Uniden bag phone that mounted on the transmission hump and plugged in the exterior antenna. I had one for my job in northern Michigan, and I used it a lot. When I moved to Florida in 2001, Verizon took one look at it and said they don’t do analog phones anymore. Being the pack rat that I am, I kept the phone. I found it last week while I was cleaning out the garage, so it’s back where it belongs.
A lot of people ask me why I’m so attached to this car. After all, it’s just a station wagon and there’s nothing particularly collectible about it. But I’m one of the few members of my club who has owned his antique car since it was (almost) new, and other than the few months in the Hertz corral, I’ve been the only owner. It’s also a touch of nostalgia for the days when every family I knew had a station wagon, usually with the fake wood grain sides and the big wayback for dogs, peat moss bales, and hockey equipment.
Since it’s now an antique, I’ll be taking it to car shows, entering it in the “Driver Participation Class,” the segment for cars that have been driven as everyday cars and not had a full restoration. But to me the point is not to win trophies but to share the fun of enjoying old cars and perhaps reminding us that even an ordinary car can be a thing of beauty and remembrance.
The exterior restoration was done by the wonderful folks at A Auto Tech of Coral Gables, Florida. Thanks to the father and son team of Brany and Brian Binker and all their staff for the appreciative touch they gave to the car.